319. The God Who Can Do More Than We Ask Or Imagine. Ephesians 3:20-21. [Praying our way through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.]

Is anything too hard for God? It is a question that often comes to our minds when we are faced with seemingly impossible situations. It was a question asked very early in human history. It was verbalised by the Lord Himself when Sarah laughed to herself at the prospect that she would have a child with Abraham when they were both old, even though God had promised that was to happen.  We read, “The LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Obviously in the sight of the Lord, nothing was impossible for Him to accomplish according to His plan and purpose.

Jeremiah the prophet later affirmed the power of God to do whatever He wished, as he prayed to the Lord, “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” Jer 32:17. He recognised that YHWH was a God of ultimate power and a God of perfect righteousness. The Lord responded to Jeremiah saying, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Jer 32:27.  

Much later still, Paul was finishing his letter to the Ephesians and as he did so, he encouraged them to see the Lord as Someone for whom nothing was too hard. He put it in these words in his doxology, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21.

 “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think!”  That sounds like a powerful lot! Can it be really be true?

  1. GOD CAN DO FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY THAN ALL THAT WE ASK

3:20, “ to Him who be the  power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”

What did Jesus Himself teach about prayer? He encouraged His followers of every generation to ask great things in prayer.

In Matthew’s Gospel alone you find these promises from the lips of Jesus.

God is motivated to give to those who ask

(Mat 7:7 )  “ASK, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 ) For everyone who ASKS receives, and everyone  who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

(Mat 7:11 )  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ASK him!

The promise of His provision and the promise of His presence with His people

(Mat 18:19)  “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ASK, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”

The promise that we have what we asked for

Mat 21:22 )  “Whatever you ASK for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”

Mark put it this way,  (Mark 11:24)  “So I tell you, whatever you ASK for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Did Matthew AND Mark get it wrong? Did they misunderstand what Jesus taught? How did John hear Jesus?

John heard and recorded the same sorts of promises from the lips of Jesus.

(John 14:13-14)  “I will do whateveryou ASK in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ASK me for anything, I will do it.”

(John 15:7) “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ASK for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

(John 15:16) “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ASK him in my name.

(John 16:23) “On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ASK anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you”

(John 16:24) “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. ASK and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

John summed it up in his epistle when he wrote in 1 John 5:14-15.) “ And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ASK anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ASK, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.” Here is a twofold confidence. A confidence that the Lord hears prayer. And a confidence that He answers prayer.

James gave an indication as to why we don’t receive answers to prayer.

We don’t ask in prayer or we ask from wrong motives. We want what we want, rather than what He wants for us. (James wrote in James 4:2-3 “You do not have, because you do not ask.” God respects our God-given free will. He will not impose on us what we are unwilling to ask for or receive.

Neither will He give us what He knows would be harmful for us. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Obedience to God and the desire to please Him are the keys to receiving answers to prayer. We receive when we want God’s will and not our own. John put it this way, “and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3:22.

Progressing from saying “Please,” to saying “Thank You”.

If we believe what Jesus said our prayers should go from keeping on saying “Please” to asking and then immediately saying “Thank You.” That is taking Jesus seriously. God is not honoured when we fail to act on the promises of His Son. If Jesus as the Son of God said it, then it is true whether or not our experience of prayer might suggest otherwise.  Our experience, our understanding is limited. His word, His promises are eternally true for those who fulfil His conditions.

Abundantly More Than We Can Ask

Not only can Jesus give us what we ask, but He can give us immeasurably (abundantly) more than we can ask.

In our prayers sometimes, we are asking for peanuts when God wants to give us a whole plantation. We are asking for drops of blessing when He is wanting to pour on out on us the whole Pacific Ocean of blessing.  We have no human resources to understand or to measure what He longs to bestow on us.

  • It means that as Almighty God there is no illness He cannot cure. However not all prayer for healing is answered in exactly the way we expect.
  • There is no situation He cannot change. However, He never imposes change on those who are unwilling to be changed.
  • There is no person who wants His help that He cannot help. Provided that they are open to receive the help He wants to bring!

We need to think about all these things as we pray and ask God for His answers to our prayers. We need to be honest with ourselves by asking ourselves, “Am I being a blockage to answered prayer because deep down I believe He is unwilling or unable to answer my prayers?” If so we may need to adopt the humble attitude of the father of the boy with an unclean spirit in the following story,  “And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21  And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Mk 9:20-23.

The father humbly exclaimed that he really did believe but he wanted to be free of any pockets of unbelief, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mk 9:24. We too should want to be free of any unbelief that the Lord sees in us.

  1. GOD CAN DO FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY THAN ALL THAT WE … THINK

The word to think or imagine means to exercise the mind, comprehend, perceive, understand.

  • We might imagine incredible things happening by the grace and power of God. However, God says we have no understanding, no perception, no comprehension of what He is able to do in His power. As it is written in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Is 55:8-9.
  • Notice that it’s not just God’s power “out there” in the world that Paul is writing about. It is God’s power “that is at work within us.” [Eph 3:20.] He means that God’s power is at work within the individual believer and also within the church.

Paul wrote previously in Eph 1:19, that he prayed that his readers might know God’s power in their lives, and reminded them that that same power was used in raising Jesus from the dead. It is nothing less than resurrection power that is available to His people.

  • That same power is now available to enable us to be what He wants us to be in terms of Christian character. We can be different by the grace of God.
  • That power enables us to know what He wants us to know, so that we can know His will for us by His Spirit.
  • That same power enables us to do what He wants us to do, in the power of His Spirit.

Prayer that derives from faith, coming from an intimate relationship with God, is able to release the power of God into the situations for which we pray.

  • He can do more than we ever possibly ask for.
  • He can do more than we could ever possibly imagine or comprehend.

Let’s think about the implications of what Paul wrote in Eph 3:20-21.

  • No matter what we ask, God can do more. That should encourage us to ask for more than we’ve ever asked for before. Not just the power to cope, but the power to conquer. Not just healing to take away the pain, but complete healing.
  • If we use our greatest imagination, could we imagine our illness being healed. If we can imagine that, we still can’t comprehend how much more He can do in answer to prayer.

Because our God is the God who can do more than all we ask or imagine, we may need to allow Him to put into our hearts what He would have us pray. Then let’s ask Him for those things and immediately thank Him that they are ours in Christ, to be released in His way, in His time and importantly, through whom He wishes.  To His glory!

Blog No.319. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 14thJuly 2019

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
This entry was posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, OUTLINE OF EPHESIANS, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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